Friday 5 July 2013

Wargaming in Dubai: The old days.

Last night at my local store I was told how good of an "idea" it would be for a fully established Games Workshop to be set up in Dubai. It got me thinking about the old days of wargaming there and ended up in me writing this post.

Firstly I should point out that I spent 16 years in Dubai from 1990-2006 and still regularly travel back there 2-3 times a year. I started my first Warhammer army in Dubai at the local independent stockist that had a small community of gamers providing a limited amount of versatile armies (we mainly played Fantasy utilising the old "The Great Unclean One" army builder website). We had a single store with a handful of tables and on a good day there might be around 7-10 gamers of all kinds. We played a multitude of systems including Fantasy, 40k, Mordheim and Magic The Gathering. In about 2004/5 a small number of us established "Dubai Wargamers" which was a largely unofficial club consisting of the regular store goers. We organised events such as sieges (we mainly played Fantasy) and doubles matches to keep ourselves entertained (looking back on it and remanising it occurred to me that we spent a lot of effort establishing a forum/website for a community of gamers that essentially didn't exist). However, like most groups in Dubai, the gamers moved out of the country and the store eventually moved to a less accessible part of town culminating in the club essentially becoming a ghost of it's former (10 member) self which has no trace around the city today (as far as I know).

It seems that there has been a re-insurgence of Warhammer over the past six years and a quick search reveals what seems to be the new Wargaming club: War Camel. In fact Dubai even hosted a middle eastern tournament:

It's great to see the hobby scene picking up in the city to such an extent that they can host events as large as that. I did drop by the independent store last January to check out the scene and it was a bit of a let down to be honest. It is crammed into a small corner of a small supermarket without a real sense of community. Although the few British players that I chatted to were very friendly. I do believe that there are a number of privately organised groups at various locations around the city and at schools (should point out that there was a Jumeirah College group active at lunch times when I was there). Getting back to the question of Games Workshop thought. Would it work? Not ever.

The independent stockist in Dubai already has a hard time getting products priced cheap enough to still make a profit off. The problem is by "cheap enough" it means still exorbitantly expensive compared to the UK. I commend whoever is running the place for fighting to keep it open through the many problems of importing the miniatures. If a GW was to open, there would need to be an entire managerial structure set up within the country. Anything more than one staff and you are pushing the expenses up. Middle Eastern sales make up a tiny amount of global revenue and currently it would be a bad business decision to establish a store there. The whole "go to Dubai and get rich" fantasy is exactly what it is: a fantasy. Simply being in Dubai doesn't make you rich and a lot of people mistake the fanciful hotels and oversized shopping malls for a representation of everyone having high incomes. A GW would look nice a pretty sitting in one of the malls and it would get gamers dropping by and gaming. I'm not saying that it would be deserted but there would be far less of a market then other countries. I would love to hear from any of the Wargaming clubs operating in Dubai. The chances of them reading this are pretty slim but you never know. I'll be heading over there next week so might check out the scene again.



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